The Associated Press
BANGKOK -- Thailand's prime minister is warning that rising floodwaters that have wreaked havoc across the nation are now threatening the capital, Bangkok, as the death toll from the worst monsoon rains in decades rose Saturday to 253.
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said the flooding -- which had severed rail links with the north, shut dozens of highways, and swamped ancient Buddhist temples in the city of Ayutthaya -- had reached a crisis level.
Bangkok has so far been spared serious damage, but many fear it could be inundated as large amounts of water flow from submerged northern rice fields toward the Gulf of Thailand. That critical runoff is expected to be impeded by high ocean tides in mid-October, and Tropical Storm Nalgae is forecast to bring new rain in the days ahead.
Bangkok Gov. Sukhumbhand Paripatra said the situation in the capital, where authorities had piled thousands of sandbags along the banks of rising rivers, was currently under control. But he said he had ordered city officials to prepare for evacuations if necessary. The city government has also been stocking emergency supplies of food and water.
Yingluck visited a pumping station on the outskirts of Bangkok and said she thought a series of drainage tunnels under the city would be able to handle the floods.
The Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation said 253 people had been killed since a series of tropical storms began hitting Thailand at the end of July. It said 8 million people in 60 of the country's 77 provinces have been affected by floods and mudslides, and 3 million acres of agricultural land have been damaged.